China could effectively shut down America’s healthcare system within months given the one-party state’s “global chokehold” on the manufacturing of medicines and medical supplies, explained Rosemary Gibson, author of China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine.
Gibson, senior adviser at the Hastings Center, offered her remarks on Thursday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour and special guest host Ed Martin.
Mansour noted how the coronavirus outbreak in China has exposed America’s dangerous dependence on Chinese production of pharmaceutical and medical supplies, including an estimated 97 percent of all antibiotics and 80 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients needed for domestic drug production.
Gibson said, “If China shuts the door on exports of medicines and the ingredients to make them, within a couple of months our pharmacies would be empty. Our healthcare system would cease to function. That’s how dependent we are.”
Gibson added, “Say there’s a coronavirus outbreak in the United States, God forbid, and a lot of people end up in hospitals with severe cases. The medicines needed to care for them if they can’t breathe and are on a ventilator — fentanyl and propofol — [are made in China]. We depend on China for the raw materials. If they go into shock, the epinephrine and dopamine we need to care for them, we depend on China. If they have bacterial infections, we depend on China for the antibiotics.”
Many over-the-counter supplements sold in the U.S. are at least partly manufactured in China, Gisbon noted. “We can’t make [vitamin C] here anymore. That comes from China.”
America has lost much of its manufacturing apparatus for medicines to China via globalization, explained Gibson. “With our medicines, it’s not just the active ingredient [that is made in China]. It’s the raw chemicals, the molecules, the white powdery stuff, that we also depend on China for. That’s where China has the real global chokehold.”
Gibson explained how generic drugs manufacturers around the world are dependent on China for raw materials.
“Another shocking thing I discovered is that India and its huge generic [drug] industry — they’re the top generic producer in the world, although I think China’s going to overtake them in about five to ten years — even India depends on China,” Gibson stated.” [India’s] generic industry would shut down within weeks and months without those core components, and you see it in the Indian press, right now, that they’re already concerned about this because this coronavirus in China is really disrupting supply chains.”
China uses predatory mercantilist policies — including dumping — to undercut American and Western drug manufacturers, just as the communist state did with steel and other commodities, noted Mansour.
Gibson recalled, “I documented China’s penicillin cartel. There’s an incredible story of how we lost our penicillin manufacturing plants. These are huge industrial facilities, big fermentation plants, and China came in and knocked them out in the U.S. and even India by dumping it on the global market at really cheap prices — keeping it low for several years — and then the price goes back up again.”
Gibson went on, “So we can’t make penicillin, and this was the playbook for how we lost aspirin manufacturing, vitamin C, and so many other antibiotics that we rely on. We’re talking about last-resort antibiotics, medicines to treat sepsis, MRSA, [and] C. diff. These are the antibiotics you give to your kids for ear infections, or you take if you have a tooth infection of staph infection.”
Gibson warned, “We are so vulnerable. These are infectious diseases, and we depend on China to treat them.”
American politicians have been absent on the issue of domestic hemorrhaging of drug manufacturing capabilities to China, Gibson said.
“Nobody did anything about it,” lamented Gibson. “This has been going on for almost 20 years. In fact, no one wanted to even expose it. That’s why it took so long to figure this out and to put it out there, to reveal our dependence. It’s really quite remarkable. The American public’s been thrown under the bus.”
Mansour asked why American politicians allowed domestic manufacturing of medicines and medical supplies to be outsourced to China.
Gibson replied, “There was country-of-origin legislation introduced in Congress around 2008 that would require companies to state on their packages where their product is made, and it was killed immediately. So I asked someone in the industry, someone who worked there for more than 30 years, ‘So, what’s going on here?’ and this person said, ‘Well, the industry thought it probably wouldn’t be good for business if their customers knew where their medicines were coming from.’”
Gibson continued, “Our military is dependent on China. So the young men and women in the South China Sea on those aircraft carriers, they’re dependent on their adversary for their medicine.
Gibson reflected on the testimony of Larry Wortzel, a 32-year veteran and retired Army colonel, regarding contaminated blood pressure medicines made in China. Wortzel’s comments were made during a 2019 hearing of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
“It was spellbinding,” recalled Gibson, “for 90 seconds, he described how he got three different blood pressure medicines. They were made in India but the ingredients came from China, and it had rocket fuel compounds in it. … He said, ‘If I’m getting it, that means our active duty military are all getting it.’ This is how far down we have come in our standards with our medicine.”
“There are no short-term solutions,” Gibson stated of measures to restore America’s medical manufacturing capacity. “We have lost so much of our industrial base to make our own medicines, and you don’t create that overnight. … the FDA has proposed some measures, going forward, that drug manufacturers produce risk management plans and require them to identify alternate sources in case there are future disruptions.”
Gibson continued, “You know what the problem with that is? So many of these manufacturers [are now] Chinese domestic companies that are now ramping up from ingredients to making generic finished drugs. So now, 90 percent of the generic drugs sold in the United States [are linked to China]. They’re birth control pills, antidepressants, HIV/AIDS medicines, medicines for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, diabetes.”
“China’s on track to gain control of our generic drugs, and so the FDA has proposed that it’s going to ask manufacturers to tell us what their plan B is,” added Gibson. “So we’re going to be effectively relying on Chinese companies to help us out in a future emergency.”
Gibson noted, “China’s stated aim is to become the pharmacy to the world with its own companies. And what we’re seeing with Western generic drug companies, they’re collapsing because they can’t compete.”
Gibson said, “There’s a chapter in China Rx called “Made in China, Sue in America? Good Luck.” One of these reasons for the cheap price is that Chinese companies assume no liability for the quality of their product. When there was this huge recall of blood pressure medicines in the U.S. and around the world, it was because of a single company in China that made the active ingredient that had carcinogens in it — these rocket fuel compounds — and they knowingly sent product to the United States, knowingly knew that it didn’t meet U.S. standards, and it went on for four years before we picked it up.”
Gibson continued, “What we’re seeing is not just our supply coming from China, but the quality that is diminishing, and the FDA’s leverage to protect the public is just falling apart. Look, the FDA had to recall inspectors from China because of the coronavirus. It’s going to be months before [FDA] employees go back there, and they volunteer for those positions. The agency can’t [compel them]. Who’s going to want to go?”
Gibson added, “Just imagine you’re an FDA inspector over there and you’re in this big Chinese plant and you write a report, and you see some very serious violations, do you think the Chinese government will ever want you back in the country? Would you ever want to go back? Would you be afraid of retaliation?”
“I think we have to prepare for a future where the FDA will have virtually no leverage in China to really protect the American people,” assessed Gibson. “[The FDA] is already making trade-offs between substandard medicines and preventing shortages in medicines. It’s allowing stuff in that doesn’t meet standards, because we have no choice.”
Free market solutions can’t correct China’s mercantilist undercutting of Western drug and medical supply manufacturing.
“Some are saying, ‘Let the free market fix it,’” noted Gibson. “There is no free market. We wouldn’t allow this for our nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers to operate, because we’d be making them in China. We need to think of our medicines as a strategic asset. Not as something cheap that we outsource to a country that has a lot of problems.”
Gibson added, “It’s not a free market. They cheated [with] subsidies to these Chinese companies, so it’s very hard for any U.S. or Western company to compete, because you’re competing not with Chinese companies, you’re competing with the Chinese government.”
“We’re losing our manufacturing base,” warned Gisbon. “It’s just collapsing before our eyes. It’s the reason why we have really poor quality medicines now coming in.”
Gibson quoted a physician she spoke with, “We’re becoming like a developing country with our medicines.”
Gibson proposed federal industrial policy to renew domestic manufacturing of medicines and medical products.
“I would have our federal government invest in helping to rebuild our industrial base using advanced manufacturing technology that can produce our medicines much more cheaply, safely, with less environmental footprint, and fully, from soup to nuts from those core raw materials to finished drug in one location all here in the United States,” Gibson advised.
Gibson added, “There will be opponents who say, ‘No, we should let the market do it.’ The market will never do this. They’ll never make this investment. So we have to decide as a country, do we want to have some degree of self-sufficiency in our ability to make medicine? Do we want our military not to be dependent on China for pharmaceuticals to treat chemical and biological agents?”
“We’ll be depending on China to help us out when we run out of medicines,” warned Gibson. “The absurdity of it is extraordinary. We have to decide as a country, do we want to have some capacity to make our own medicines, or not?”
“Would you trust taking a last resort antibiotic for your child that was made in China?” asked Gisbon. “Would you trust it? Would you trust a chemotherapy if your child has leukemia? More than ten percent of the generics that have been tested in the U.S. don’t meet standards, by the way.”
Gibson went on “Most Americans don’t trust. They remember when thousands of dogs and cats died when a Chinese company contaminated pet food, and hundreds of humans died when the Chinese did a very insidious and sophisticated operation to contaminate a blood thinner widely used in hospitals.”
“A number of hospitals are having to test certain medicines because physicians see that there’s just something not working,” stated Gibson. “So we have this 18 percent of our GDP in our healthcare system, and we’re relying on these components from China that are essential for helping people recover, that make a difference between life or death. It’s insanity.”
“Food was used as a weapon of war” in World Wars I and II, said Gibson, warning of the political weaponization of medicines.
“Our medicines can be weaponized,” Gibson observed. “China can withhold them. China has threatened the United States with drug shortages in the past, it had nothing to do with the trade issue.Think of the leverage you give to a country when it controls your antibiotics.”
Eighty-five percent of the America’s strategic national stockpile of medicines and medical supplies depends on China, Gibson noted.
Gibson concluded, “We have to diversify away from China and bring some manufacturing of essential medicines back home to this country.
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